Many Rivers to Cross

30 Nov

Last week, my friends and I drove to Missouri for a football game. To get there, we had to drive through Kentucky; across southern Illinois; into St. Louis; and over to the middle of the state. It is a route that I have driven many times to begin a road trip into the West, but this was the first time that I noticed the rivers. We crossed a bunch of them.

Oh yeah, the title of this post is also the title of a great song by Jimmy Cliff.Cliff

I have always been fascinated by rivers. Their power. Their constant movement. It is interesting to watch a loaded barge being pushed along the way. However, I am mostly fascinated by their history. The rivers of North America have shaped the lives of everyone who have encountered them.

That is what interesting about the drive to Columbia, Missouri. It was like we were driving through a nautical version of American history. We crossed rivers that are not just any rivers. We crossed rivers that have had a huge impact on my state and our nation.

Cumberland River

Tennessee River

Ohio River

Mississippi River

Missouri River

The Cumberland River has had a huge impact on Tennessee. The first settlers made their way to its banks when they came to Middle Tennessee. Nashville, the state’s capital, was the result of their journey. It is the same river that flooded downtown Nashville a few years ago.

At one time, the Tennessee River was a wide and uncontrollable waterway. Then, the Tennessee Valley Authority, known better as the TVA, dammed the river. This made it more navigable and provided electricity for people throughout Tennessee and Alabama.

The Ohio River was the original way into the West. I am not writing about the Trans-Mississippi West. I am writing about the original West, which is now known as the Midwest. It also served as the western extension of the Mason Dixon Line. Yes, it was the border between slavery and freedom.

The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world, and it has a history that is just as long. At one time, it was the nation’s western boundary. It has been a vital target in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. It has inspired literature and music. In other words, I cannot write enough about it.

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, and I have been lucky enough to see different parts of it. As we crossed the bridge in Missouri, I thought Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery. In 1804, they started their journey somewhere near our crossing, and they had little idea of where they were going. Two years later, they returned with tales of the West and started our nation on a history of expansion.

Each day, thousands of people take the route that we drove. I wonder if they realize the stories of the rivers that they cross. Without those rivers, history would have turned out quite differently.


11 Responses to “Many Rivers to Cross”

  1. Andrew Petcher November 30, 2015 at 10:42 #

    That is a long drive to see a football game!
    Joe Cocker did a very good version of ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ on the 1996 album ‘Organic’

    • Rick November 30, 2015 at 15:07 #

      It was a long drive, but it wasn’t too bad. I will check out the Cocker version.

  2. sittingpugs November 30, 2015 at 14:05 #

    “Many Rivers To Cross” is a really good song.

    • Rick November 30, 2015 at 15:08 #

      Yes it is.

  3. Marilyn Armstrong November 30, 2015 at 16:57 #

    I love our rivers. There was a book some years back about a guy or crossed the continent by rivers. Okay, they had to portage some sections, but it turned out to be doable. Fascinating. If we had build canals instead of roads, we might all be buying boats today 🙂

    • Rick November 30, 2015 at 19:24 #

      Canals would be cool. Think of Venice except on a continental scale.

      • Marilyn Armstrong November 30, 2015 at 19:34 #

        Kind of makes you wonder about super canals and rush hour — in the waterways 🙂

  4. jcalberta December 1, 2015 at 04:14 #

    The drive along the Missouri in Montana is some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.
    Have not seen enough of America.

    • Rick December 1, 2015 at 13:45 #

      That’s good country. I have been along that stretch as well.

  5. frontrangescribbles December 2, 2015 at 04:04 #

    I’m partial to the Mississippi and Missouri having grown up near them. Now living in CO after Little Rock the Arkansas river has earned a spot in my heart.

    • Rick December 2, 2015 at 21:46 #

      The Arkansas has also played a big role in history.

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